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Clinical negligence litigation and the NHS: focusing on the injured patient

23 February 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 4


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses some recent reports on clinical negligence that focus on the importance of patient safety

In discussing clinical negligence and patient safety issues it is important to try to maintain a sense of perspective and not to understate the tragic and terrible effects that clinical negligence can have on patients, their relatives and carers. There will also be an emotional impact on the nurses and doctors who have treated and continue to treat the patient, and this must not be forgotten. When debating clinical negligence and patient safety issues there is a need to remind ourselves that there is a patient behind all that we do and discuss. Unfortunately, when reading some publications and reports on these topics, the interests of patients seem to have been somewhat muted as an issue.

I see this happening in some debates about reforming clinical negligence litigation. We often hear clarion calls for clinical negligence reform and the need to safeguard scarce NHS resources, which is key and understandable. Any reform, however, should not compromise the right of patients to access justice for harm caused. An NHS resource preservation camp of stakeholders argues that NHS clinical negligence costs are spiralling out of control. There is another camp who argue for a different focus, based on the harmed patient's right to access justice to pursue their case. Both raise good points, and the debate continues.

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